DRC minister frets about European troops

The deployment of European troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo should not create an impression that Africa had failed to secure the coming elections in the country, South African Deputy Defence Minister Mluleki George said on Wednesday.

His remarks came after meeting the DRC Defence Minister, Adolphe Onusumba, who expressed his concern about the planned European mission to the Central African country.

”Some politicians might use their [the European troops’] presence in the capital to spread rumours. Residents might think they are supporting one side or another,” he said.

He asked the Southern African Development Community (SADC) delegation to deploy monitors to keep a watchful eye on the Europeans.

”We need watchdogs to make the people feel safe,” Onusumba said.

George, who is part of the SADC delegation examining the security in the country ahead of the elections scheduled for June, said they would on Thursday try to gain further clarity on the European troops’ role in the DRC.

”What would the European mission do, what is their brief, when do they start and when do they end?” he said, adding that he did not want to comment on the issue until these questions were answered.

In March the European Union approved a plan to deploy 1 250 troops to the DRC to help the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force in the country oversee the elections.

Germany would assume command of the mission which would consist mostly of French and German troops.

The United Nations already has more than 17 600 troops and personnel deployed in the country to help keep the peace, including about 1 400 South African troops. South Africa has also deployed additional defence and police personnel to help the Congolese train their own security forces.

On Wednesday Onusumba said six brigades had already been deployed in the country. ”By April 15 we would deploy another six brigades and hope to deploy another six brigades in June before the election.”

The DRC is slowly making a UN-supervised transition towards democracy and this year’s election would be the first since independence in 1961.

The first round of elections were scheduled for June 18 but has been pushed back to a still undisclosed date. – Sapa

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